London Calling

Actors rally to save Jack London Park


Much has taken place over the centuries on the gorgeous piece of land now known as Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen. Many famous folks have made the place their home, but none more famous than writer Jack London, whose ranch and home has spawned hundreds of fascinating stories—and as a state historic park, has drawn millions of visitors. Since London’s death in November of 1916, the land he lived on has hosted fairs, rock concerts, film festivals and the occasional theatrical presentation. But there has never been a professional theater company calling the park its permanent home.

That might be changing soon.

On Oct. 1, at the Kohler & Frohling Winery ruins at the edge of Jack London State Historic Park, the Los Angeles-based Transcendence Theatre will stage an evening of showtunes and American standards. Featuring actors and singers with heavy ensemble experience on Broadway, television and in touring shows, the concert is a fundraiser for the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association, a nonprofit supporting volunteer efforts at Jack London, Sugarloaf Ridge and Annadel State Parks. With any luck, the concert will be the first of many for Transcendence, which has announced plans to move to Sonoma, where it hopes to launch a season of musicals—at Jack London Park—beginning in 2012.

If, that is, the park is still open in 2012.

Jack London State Historical Park is one of 70 parks in the state of California marked for closure, a result of the state’s massive budget cuts kicking in after next July. A valiant effort has been launched to keep the place open. That’s where Transcendence Theatre comes in.

Under the direction of Amy Miller (whom a couple million people have seen on YouTube in the musical comedy-fueled “Best Wedding Toast Ever” video), the new company will bring a parade of singer-actors to the stage under the stars, including Stephan Stubbins, who appeared on Broadway in the ensemble of Mary Poppins; Melissa Giattino, from the revival of 42nd Street; Eric Jackson from Thoroughly Modern Millie; Jared Bradshaw of Jersey Boys; and Miller herself.

It is the hope of Miller and Co. that this first big benefit show will not only be the beginning of a beautiful relationship with Sonoma County, but might keep Jack London State Park open.

Broadway Under the Stars is on Saturday, Oct. 1 at Jack London State Historic Park. 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen. 7:30pm. $25-$100. 877.424.1414.

Sonoma County Library